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On Saturday and Sunday, Steve Spurrier refused to take questions from the media covering his South Carolina football team. On Monday, we suggested that Spurrier a) was feeling pretty good because he’s winning and that usually means he’ll do things other coaches won’t and b) was probably ticked at Columbia columnist Ron Morris — again — over a column he’d penned earlier in the week claiming that Steve Spurrier shouldn’t have played injured quarterback Connor Shaw against UAB.
On Wednesday, Morris responded with a column. Yesterday, Spurrier refused to make peace and made it clear on WNKT-FM in Columbia that he and the South Carolina administration have had it up to here with Morris.
Our “speculation” on Monday that Spurrier was mad at Morris and feeling 10-feet-tall and bulletproof was met with a lot of angry words from a few Carolina fans. Well, once again, this site was able to put two and two together long before any coach had to spell out matters word for word. I’m sure the fact that we were correct will tick off a few people. But they’ll get over it. Mainly ’cause they’ll be cheering the comments their head coach made during his weekly radio show:
“One of the local writers wrote another nasty article last week. It was very negative and critical towards me. It slandered my name and my integrity. The guy is trying to tarnish and ruin my reputation as a coach. That’s OK. I don’t dislike this guy, I really don’t. Because we all know who the guy is and that’s the kind of person he is…
I told my wife after the last article, ‘I’ve had it. I’ve had enough. I’m not going to take it anymore. I’ve had enough.’ Almost all of the Gamecocks say, ‘Coach, don’t pay any attention to him, he’s insignificant,’ which he is. He is not an important person. But they’re not having their name and reputation slandered. So, I’m the one. It’s not my mode of operation to not say anything about it. So, this is my voice here. He gets his voice in the newspaper, which he uses…
I think we need to make some changes. I think some positive changes are going to happen. They have a little problem over there that we know about, but they’re working on it. Our president and our athletic director, they’re all backing me in this.”
If Spurrier feels slandered, he has every right to use his own radio platform to say so. As the coach states, Morris has his venue, Spurrier has his. A winning coach versus the media? You can guess who’s going to get the backing of the public on that one.
The only problem we had with Spurrier’s actions was his decision to punish every reporter trying to cover his team because he was upset with one columnist. Turns out, that’s exactly what happened and we still think that was a childish move. “Handle it man-to-man,” we said. Yesterday, Spurrier did and there’s not a thing in the world wrong with that.
But then the coach went a little bit off the rails:
“Historically, around here at South Carolina, we’re in uncharted waters right now. We’re winning. It used to be cool to try to trash and bash the head coach, from what I’ve learned. But it’s not cool anymore. I don’t think I have to put up with that anymore.”
Spurrier says he doesn’t have “to put up with that anymore.” Meaning criticism? Being slandered? Meaning he can ban any media member who doesn’t write glowing things about him? Meaning he’ll blast a writer right back when if he takes a shot at his integrity?
Depending on the coach’s meaning that statement could either be fine or ridiculous.
Many’s the time someone has come to this site’s comment boxes and anonymously told those of us here (who provide free information to them) that it’s fair game to rip us anonymously because we’re the ones who decided to go into the media. Well, if that’s the case, then how is a coach making millions of dollars above criticism from a writer who actually puts his name to his column/commentary/criticism?
Here’s hoping Spurrier wasn’t trying to say that he’s now above all questions and critique. We take vulgar comments and insults for free around here. Surely Spurrier has a thick enough skin — to use some Carolina fans’ comments to us — to handle some criticism for a whopping three million bucks a year.
The coach continued:
“I believe our city is going to be better off because we’re all going to get along better. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve had some serious discussions about things. Basically, I said I’m not taking any more of this stuff that’s coming out of our local paper anymore. If that’s part of the job, I’ll head to the beach. That’s not part of the job. So, we’re going to get it straightened out.”
Again, it’s all about interpretation. Does that comment mean Spurrier will “head to the beach” if any writer for any paper questions his decision-making? Does that mean he’ll quit if he feels someone has attacked his integrity or tried to “trash” his name? There’s a big difference between the two.
Does that mean that Spurrier told the USC administration that he’ll walk if they don’t back him?
Spurrier was A-OK to fire back at Morris via his own medium. His later comments were a bit more fuzzy. If he was trying to say he’ll fight fire with fire and might just quit if people assail his character, fine. Quitting might be a bit of an overreaction, but that’s his call. However, if he’s saying that he is above criticism and he’ll leave if anyone writes anything about him or his team that he doesn’t like, then he’s crossed over into that 10-feet-tall and bulletproof zone.
The President of the United States — be that person Barrack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, etc — gets ripped and vilified by Fox News or MSNBC every single day. And the presidency is a much more important, much more difficult job than that of a football coach (even if it doesn’t pay as well). If our country’s leader can be critiqued, why then can’t a football coach?
Here’s hoping Spurrier is simply referring to what he feels are character attacks. (Though there’s some grey area there, too, as what’s viewed as an attack on integrity to one person might not be viewed as such by another.)
Ask anyone who’s ever covered Spurrier and you’ll find that his ego inflates and deflates with each victory and loss. Even-keeled is not how many describe the man. That’s not a knock, just a fact that can be learned by reading through his press conference transcripts over the years. Heck, when some Carolina fans were on his back just two short years ago and he arrived at SEC Media Days bearing a 7-6 record from the previous season, you’d have thought someone had just run over his dog. He was downright sullen. We wrote on this site that it was sad to see a coach with such a tremendous track record for success feeling so down in the dumps.
But the last two years, the old Spurrier has returned. Quick with a quip — sometimes pointed — and feisty as ever. That’s part of the package. If he’s your coach and he’s winning, you love it. If he’s someone else’s coach, you hate it. If you’re in the media, you just get used to it.
For that reason, here’s guessing that many folks in the Palmetto State will interpret Spurrier’s comments to mean he’ll just not put up with what he — and many fans — feel are character assassination attempts from The State’s Morris.
Everyone else is left to wonder if that’s indeed what the coach meant… or if he was saying that from now on, everyone has to be positive about his every decision or else he’ll quit.
It’s all about the interpretation.